There has been much debate recently about the meaning, place and function of “character” and “character traits” in Virtue Ethics. For example, a number of philosophers have argued recently that Virtue Ethics would be strengthened as a theory by the omission of talk of character traits; recent neuroscientific studies have suggested that there is scope for scepticism about the existence of such traits. I will argue that both approaches are flawed and unconvincing: in brief, the first approach tends to be predicated on a narrow or insufficient conception of “character” and “character traits”; the second approach tends to go well beyond the available (empirical) evidence. Finally, I will argue that it is possible to point to a philosophy of education that is deeply informed by an understanding of virtue and ethics in which the concept of character has a coherent and meaningful role.


virtue ethics; character traits; neuroscience; compassion; eudaimonia

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